Today was an unusual Saturday morning. Instead of watching endless news programs first thing in the morning I cajoled my husband into watching 2014 episode 2 of Downton Abbey, which I had saved on DVR. Every so often he would interrupt the show, with questions. “Didn’t the head of the household get killed in a car accident last year? Whats that Mary so glum about? Are the regals playing cards with a member of the staff?” Of course I filled him in. As I write this I can’t quite get the language out of my head. I think he has the same issue. When I asked, “What shall we do today?” His answer was, “Well, begin it with a proper breakfast of course…in the dining room. I’ll alert the staff.” My answer was, “Oh right…and afterward a brisk walk in the fields followed by tea by the fire!”
Truth be known, I rather picture myself more as a member of the household staff. I throw dinner parties a little like Mrs. Patmore- the head of the kitchen staff. She had an anxiety attack on the last episode. That would be me. I have great ideas- I love decorating for company- but when it comes down to it I get all flustered when guests arrive just when I have to get it all together. I need a Daisy to keep me controlled and calm me down. After every dinner party I swear I will never entertain again! Until, of course I get another great idea and do it all over again!
A few years back my husband and I visited Newport Rhode Island. If you haven’t been- do sign up for a tour of the mansions. Even there, as soon as I walked into the kitchens I instantly felt at home. I rather hated the cold austere feel the grand rooms evoked. But the kitchen….! Ah…! Homey feel right away. Well worn countertops. Huge black sinks made of soapstone- dinged and scratched. A large wooden work table at the center- I couldn’t help picturing sticky bread dough being kneaded and imagine the sweet aroma as it is baked in the oven. I could hear the clanking of pots and pans- the scurry of feet as cooks work quickly to get food put on dumb-waiters so that servants in the upper floors could serve the wealthy aristocrats sitting about an elegantly long dining room table complete with fresh flowers, only the best porcelain, silver and crystal.
In my Down Town Abby, my kitchen staff are a close-knit bunch. They care deeply for one another and take care of each other like family! The young aristocrats think of them as family as well. There would always be a place at the center of that kitchen for a wee tot to sit and listen to stories- while enjoying a warm slice of bread or perhaps a slice of cake. When feelings were hurt or injustices done, my kitchen would be where the young aristocrats came to have their voice heard. Upstairs children are seen but not heard. Down in my kitchen they not only are heard, but understood. My version of Mrs. Patmore is a little like the maid Martha in the children’s novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden. She takes the little aristocrats under her wing and encourages them to get out into fresh air and work hard, while always teaching respect and kindness.
There is a reason Downton Abbey is so popular! All the drama! My Down Town Abby is rather a little too benign. I need to work on squeezing in a little more shock value! Perhaps Abby (head of the kitchen)develops pneumonia and in her place (while she recuperates of course), an evil one becomes head of the kitchen. Someone a little like Edna Braithwaite, the evil ex-servant that reemerged in this season’s Downton Abbey. Ah crumpets! Even my re-write is taking characters out of the original series.
Well, the day is a-wasting. Time for my brisk walk and afterward tea, by the fire.